Reviewed – 23rd January 2019
“well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch”
Frankie Meredith’s two-hander depicts best friends Yasmin and Casey navigating the dizzying transitions of Year 13: its whirlwind of illicit boozing, UCAS, sexual experimentation, open days, Snapchat and anxious parents. They are bright, ambitious girls (further maths loving Yasmin is applying to Imperial) sharing in the triumphs and crises of small town teenage existence. Their friendship provides solace from Yasmin’s overbearing Sikh household and Casey’s more ambiguous problems at home.
Meredith’s writing captures the texture of hyperactive teenspeak very well. She powerfully depicts the anxiety of lives saturated by social media, where every comment, view, like or unreturned message is a possible source of misery. One lovely scene has Yasmin constructing a forensic timeline of Casey’s recent romantic betrayal through apparently banal Instagram exchanges. Meredith skillfully suggests the struggle for current teens to forge their own identity amidst unprecedented expectations of social and academic success.
The show is technically ambitious, making canny and restrained use of projection to illustrate the girls’ online life. It benefits from Balisha Karra and Finley-Rose Townsend’s lucid direction and thoughtful use of the tricky traverse space in The Vaults’ Cavern. As the two girls, Annice Boparai and Emma James excel in evoking a late-pubescent combination of self-assurance and naivety. James also excels in her multi-rolling: her turn as Yasmin’s cocksure first-ever-boyfriend was especially well-drawn.
Though the characters are realised wonderfully, the show is less accomplished in its plotting and felt, at times, like a first draft. The second half drifts into familiar teen-drama territory, though this was redeemed towards the end by some moving insights and astute character development. The play also attempts to incorporate lyricism through the odd foray into rhyming couplets which don’t feel entirely organic against the rest of the dialogue.
Nevertheless, 17 is well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch.
Reviewed by Joe Spence
Part of VAULT Festival 2019